Some decisions in life feel simple to make, whilst others are portals into a labyrinth of never-ending questions that can occur as new possibilities become open to you. Choosing to apply for a Guide Dog is no exception to this.
We have been recently counselling a client who is at this exact decision- making point in their lives. As Guide Dogs have recently extended their services to include children and young people to offer the service of Buddy Dogs along with other fantastic services that they provide, young people now have an opportunity to experience what it is like to have a Buddy Dog that will expose them to what life would be like with a furry friend. These Buddy Dogs are not mobility aids as such as Guide Dogs are, but it is such an amazing way to have insight into what it is like to have someone by your side each and everyday who is there for you.
Working with my adolescent client brought back lots of feeling of what the application process brought up and questions that seem to be universal in the lead up to being gifted a dog. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are not pets so applying for one goes beyond the ‘it will be amazing to have a cute dog in the house’ train of thought. With such dogs coming already trained to a high standard, there will be no need for a puppy training class as they would have already been trained by dedicated individuals who work and volunteer for Guide Dogs. This life changing best friends that enter our lives are never just a dog.
On a personal level admitting that I needed a Guide Dog felt in a way, revoking the empowerment that I had felt throughout life when I was able to navigate the world alone without people knowing the severity of my sight loss. By admitting I needed help felt like going from independence to dependence on another to be able to get around. Non-Guide Dog users often think of Guide Dogs as allowing independence (which they certainly do), but initially the feelings can be quite the opposite. This is something that I talked to my client at great lengths about which seemed to help as he knew someone had been through the same thing that nobody else seemed to understand.
The magnetic draw of Munch’s pleading eyes and serene presence in the room helped for my client to experience what a real-life Guide Dog was like and he had space to ask as many questions as possible. In these conversations we established that Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are all as unique as us humans, can be both mischievous and perfectly well behaved, can be ball thieves and avoid distractions and a million other things in-between. They will almost definitely deserve a birthday celebration to thank them for their service to us and gifts from family members will always appear each year under the Christmas tree. You will no longer be a sole entity but part of a partnership and expect people to greet your dog before they greet you.
These hairy soul mates of ours that appear in our lives can only arrive after the loving dedications of the people who have turned them into the characters that they are today. From people who donate to this fab charity, the puppy walkers who must have patience of saints and the Guide Dog staff who deserve more praise than they ever get. We are matched with the dogs that the staff feel match us perfectly and work with us if there are teething problems. Guide Dogs and Buddy Dogs are only possible because of the beautiful creations of the bond between the animal and the human world.
When my client asked, ‘do you think I will have a dog like Munch?’, I responded ‘you will have your own version of Munch’. I am crossing my fingers that his perfect Buddy Dog is getting ready to imprint their paws on the heart of their new best friend soon now that children and young people can feel the true power of these special souls